PREVIEW: The Comprehensive Women’s World Cup Guide

The countdown is well and truly on for football aficionados, as less than two weeks remain until the highly anticipated FIFA Women’s World Cup gets underway in Australia and New Zealand.

And while avid fans of the Women’s Super League will likely recognise a plethora of players featuring at the tournament, those who don’t keep up with the domestic scene may find themselves falling behind.

Nothing has the power to unite people in the way that football does – so we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to the tournament, allowing you to absorb the key facts now, and enjoy the action in the moment.

The Basics

Women’s football has never been a more attractive prospect than it is right now. England are looking to build on their European victory last summer, but are far from the favourites – the Lionesses have been plagued by serious injuries to key players.

The tournament will be played across Australia and New Zealand, beginning in Auckland on July 20. The final will be played at Sydney’s Stadium Australia on August 20, with the ground able to hold in excess of 80,000 fans.

32 teams will feature at this incredible festival of women’s football. They’ve been split into eight groups of four, with the top two teams from each group progressing to the knockout stages.

Group A

As co-hosts, New Zealand have been placed in Group A. The Football Ferns are ranked 26th in the world, and will face fierce completion as they strive to progress to the knockout rounds for the first time in their history.

Jitka Klimková will be hoping that her squad can make history by becoming the first New Zealand side to win a match at a World Cup tournament. The Football Ferns have appeared at five tournaments and have failed to do so, while the male side remain winless from their two appearances in 1982 and 2010.

New Zealand will never be a footballing country, but this is arguably the greatest opportunity to cast the sport into the limelight in front of a bumper home crowd. Fans should keep an eye out for Leicester City’s CJ Bott – who is a versatile defender primarily deployed on the right side of a back four.

Norway will be looking to make amends for a disappointing campaign at last summer’s EUROs. Not only did the Gresshoppene fail to progress from their group, they suffered their biggest defeat in history – a staggering 8-0 loss to eventual champions England.

Just a year on, fans might expect that Norway will suffer a similar fate in the Southern Hemisphere. But this is a reformed side now under the management of Hege Riise, following Martin Sjögren’s resignation in July 2022.

Norway boast some of the biggest names in European football – Guro Reiten, Ingrid Syrstad Engen, Frida Maanum and Maren Mjelde are just a handful of players named in Riise’s final squad. I’d keep a close eye out for Reiten in particular; the Chelsea star has earned herself the baby-faced assassin nickname for good reason!

Spurred on by their failings last year, make no mistake that this will be a group of players keen to affirm themselves as a powerhouse of world football. They’ve certainly got the talent to do so, and will look to foray deep into the latter stages of this tournament – and they might even dream of repeating their title-winning 1995 campaign.

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Remaining in Europe, Switzerland are also capable of pulling off an upset this summer. While they perhaps don’t quite boast a roster as impressive as Norway, there’s still plenty of talent hidden among the La Nati ranks.

Arsenal fans will be keen to keep an eye on Lia Wälti and Noelle Maritz, with both players expected to play a starring role in Inka Grings’ side. Barcelona’s Ana-Maria Crnogorčević and Aston Villa’s Alisha Lehmann have also been selected – but the loss of Iman Beney through a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament will once again prompt further questioning into the prominence of the injury within women’s sport.

At just sixteen years old, Beney made her La Nati debut mere days ago as she starred in the second half of a 3-3 draw against Zambia. Grings insisted that the youngster would feature heavily at the tournament despite her age, meaning we could have witnessed the metaphorical birth of a new footballing star – though a serious injury in training has put an end to those dreams.

Switzerland have only qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup on one prior occasion, reaching the round-of-sixteen in 2015 after finishing as one of the best third-place outfits. That won’t be good enough this time around though, given the recent changes to the tournament structure.

The Philippines are arguably the minnows of Group A. They’re one of eight teams making their World Cup debut this year, and expectations are being kept realistic.

But they’re a nation on the rise, having reached the semifinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022. They’ll look to take that momentum into this tournament, but they’ll struggle to compete against the hosts and two European powerhouses.

Alen Stajcic is yet to finalise his 23-player squad for the tournament, so it’s unclear who’ll be on the plane. That being said, fans should keep an eye out for Sarina Bolden. The 27-year-old forward plays her club football for Western Sydney Wanderers, and she’ll undoubtedly look to form a crucial part of the Filipinas’ front line in her home away from home.

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Group B

As co-hosts of the tournament, Australia will star in Group B as they look to dominate the world stage. In front of a home crowd, the Matildas will strive to provide Chelsea’s Sam Kerr with the best possible service – the striker is ruthless in front of goal and will likely be the focal point of Tony Gustavsson’s attack.

Australia have never made it past the quarterfinals of a FIFA Women’s World Cup before, but they’ll feel that this is their chance to surpass that stage with an incredibly talented roster. Kerr is undoubtedly the player to watch this summer, but fans should be aware that the Matildas boast plenty of WSL stars – the likes of Steph Catley, Courtney Nevin, Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler and Hayley Raso have all been included in Gustavsson’s final squad.

The timing of this tournament couldn’t be better for Australia, who will look to take advantage of their status as co-hosts to further develop women’s football within the country – in a similar fashion to the exponential rise in attendances we saw as a result of the Lionesses’ victory last year.

But Australia face a tough group, with the Republic of Ireland looking to write their names in the history books. Vera Pauw’s side are making their debut at a competitive tournament this year, so there’s very little pressure on The Girls in Green – but they’ll want to make an impression nonetheless.

They’ll be captained by Arsenal’s Katie McCabe, who is a feisty character to say the least and could be crucial to any potential success. Equally effective in midfield and the back line, the Irish skipper played a starring role in the Gunners’ season – donning the armband on occasion after injuries to Kim Little and Leah Williamson.

Make no mistake, this is a side shrouded in controversy. Vera Pauw’s side had to endure a tough playoff campaign to reach the final tournament, culminating in a 1-0 win over Scotland. The headlines weren’t as they’d have hoped though, as videos emerged of the players praising the Irish Republican Army in their changing room celebrations.

More recently, Pauw has been the centre of media attention – as reports circulate of her involvement in alleged abuse during her managerial days in the NWSL. They’ll look to right any wrongs this summer though, and they’ll hope that their football does the talking.

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Nigeria will also feature in Group B, and are looking to improve on their disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations. The Super Falcons had won the three prior tournaments, and will look to establish themselves as a powerhouse of African football once more by progressing from this difficult group.

There’s just one WSL representative in the Nigeria squad – Leicester City’s Ashleigh Plumptre. The 25-year-old defender is likely to play a starring role in the squad, but the world’s gaze will be firmly fixed on Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala. The striker has scored thirty goals for her country; finding the back of the net on one occasion at each of the last two World Cups.

But Nigeria have endured a rocky patch of form recently. After their semifinal elimination from the African Women’s Cup of Nations in July 2022, the Super Falcons lost six games on the bounce – though they appear to have turned a corner, winning their last three matches.

Canada round off Group B, with Bev Priestmann’s side featuring a wide array of WSL talent. Priestmann has named a preliminary squad for the time being, with two players set to be dropped on July 9 to meet the deadline for final squad announcements. Fans of the English game will likely be familiar with the likes of Sabrina D’Angelo, Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky and Jessie Fleming – but there’s a new kid on the block too.

Arsenal fans will be able to get their first glimpse of Cloé Lacasse in action, as the Canadian striker recently finalised her move to North London from Benfica. This is a Canadian side packed to the brim with elite talent so her game time may be limited, but she’ll look to have an impact nonetheless as her nation strive to progress from this tough group.

Canada finished fourth at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, when just sixteen teams were involved in the action. Their best finish in recent years is the quarterfinal stage in 2015, as they were eliminated on home soil by England in a closely-fought battle.

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Group C

Group C is certainly one of the more exciting groups at this summer’s tournament, and it’ll be fascinating to see which two teams are able to progress to the knockout stages. Spain are undoubtedly favourites to top the group, with a plethora of talent across the pitch that could see them reach the latter stages of the competition.

But La Roja’s Head Coach, Jorge Vilda, has been the focal point of major controversy over recent years. Citing that his management had ‘significantly’ impacted their ‘emotional state’, fifteen first-team players made themselves unavailable for selection in September 2022.

Several of those players have now made themselves available again, though Vilda has not included them all in his final squad for the World Cup. Among the returning players, Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmatí and Ona Batlle will look to be the driving force behind Spain’s on-pitch push for success.

Remarkably, this will be just Spain’s third appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. They made their debut in 2015, and have shown significant signs of improvement ever since – reaching the round-of-sixteen in 2019. It feels as though this will be Spain’s year, and with the Putellas x Bonmatí partnership in the heart of the midfield, La Roja are genuine contenders for silverware.

Elsewhere in the group, Zambia will look to make the knockout stages after claiming bronze at the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations. This is their debut Women’s World Cup campaign though, so they’re somewhat of an unknown ahead of the tournament getting underway later this month.

The Copper Queens’ will hope that their sensational Madrid CFF star, Racheal Kundananji, can continue her fine run of form. The striker bagged 25 league goals for the Spanish side last season, and will look to add to her impressive tally this summer.

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Japan will be an interesting team to keep an eye on this summer. Having been crowned as World Champions in 2011, the Nadeshiko took home silver medals in 2015 – though a disappointing 2019 campaign saw them head home after elimination in the round-of-sixteen.

Futoshi Ikeda will hope that his side are able to make it a little further this time and continue to build upon their fairly successful run at the 2022 AFC Asian Women’s Cup. His side reached the semifinals last year, bowing out on penalties against the eventual winners, China.

There are four WSL representatives in the Japanese squad. Yui Hasegawa and Fuka Nagano are both included, with West Ham’s Japanese duo of Risa Shimizu and Honoka Hayashi also making the trip to the Southern Hemisphere.

It’s set to be a tough group, and one that Costa Rica look set to finish firmly rooted to the bottom of. Las Ticas have qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup on just one prior occasion, but they were eliminated from the group stage after finishing with just two points in 2015.

Women’s football is on an upwards trajectory in Costa Rica, but this tournament might have come just a little too soon for the Central American side. They managed an impressive fourth-place finish at the 2022 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, but Group C will surely prove too much of a challenge for Amelia Valverde’s side.

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Group D

England have been placed in Group D for the upcoming tournament, and Sarina Wiegman’s side will be counting their blessings as this has been widely perceived as one of the easiest groups to progress from. The Lionesses are far from the favourites to win the tournament, but they should be able to win their group quite comfortably.

Fans are understandingly disconcerted after England played out a goalless draw against Portugal at Stadium MK in their final friendly ahead of making the trip to the Southern Hemisphere, but there were positives to take from the match. Concerningly, the Lionesses seemed to struggle to bury their chances – despite managing more than twenty shots.

Nobody can really predict how this summer will pan out for England. Despite storming to victory at last summer’s EUROs, the Lionesses are without key players such as Beth Mead and Leah Williamson. Jill Scott and Ellen White both retired after that infamous win at Wembley Stadium, so Wiegman’s side has certainly evolved a lot over the last twelve months. It’ll be interesting to see how far England can progress this summer, but making it out of the groups is non-negotiable.

Joining the Lionesses in Group D, Denmark will be keen to right the wrongs of their previous campaigns, having failed to qualify for the last three editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Despite their lengthy absence, the rød-hvide are certainly capable of progressing from the group stages.

It’s been a tumultuous few years for the Danes, who suffered group stage elimination at last summer’s EUROs, despite finishing as runners-up at the 2017 event. Lars Søndergaard appears to have found the winning formula recently though, with his side storming to victory in four of their six matches since the turn of the year.

There’s plenty of talent among Søndergaard’s final squad, but the standout player is Pernille Harder. Having departed Chelsea at the end of the season and signed for Bayern Munich alongside Magdalena Eriksson, this could be the 30-year-old’s final World Cup appearance – and she’ll look to captain the rød-hvide ship to a memorable finish.

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China are an interesting package at this summer’s World Cup. They’ve not been in the best form recently, but appear to have turned a page with successive victories in friendlies against Russia. Bizarrely, the Steel Roses are set to play another two friendlies before World Cup action gets underway – and there are concerns that Shui Qingxia’s side could suffer burnout, or injury, ahead of the tournament.

The Steel Roses have missed just one edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, as they failed to qualify for the 2011 tournament. They’ve had their fair share of success, reaching the semi-finals in 1995 before being crowned as runners-up in 1999. Additionally, China have reached the quarterfinals on another three occasions – they’ve certainly got pedigree in this tournament.

But in all honesty, I can’t see them progressing from the group. Despite lifting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup last year, I think China’s stint as the continent’s footballing powerhouse is over – and I envisage England and Denmark being too tough to topple. I’d love to be proven wrong though!

Finally, we’re left with Haiti to round off Group D. The minnows of the tournament have been dealt the short straw and drawn in a group that will be almost impossible to escape from, but the expectations for their World Cup debut are almost non-existent.

Simply reaching this tournament was an achievement in itself, but that’s about as far as they’re expected to go. Les Grenadières recently competed in the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games – losing all three games. That’s hardly ideal preparation for their first major tournament appearance, though they’ll look to build momentum through their final friendly against South Korea on July 8.

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Group E

Group E has the potential to be one of the tournament’s most exciting. The United States will look to affirm their status as serial winners of this competition, having lifted the trophy four times. They’ll also look to maintain their record of never finishing lower than third place – an impressive statistic given they’ve appeared in all eight editions of the tournament. Should they be crowned as the champions in 2023, they’d become the first side to ever win the FIFA Women’s World Cup thrice consecutively.

It’s set to be a bizarre campaign for Vlatko Andonovski’s side though. The USA will be without their captain, Becky Sauerbrunn, after the defender suffered a foot injury. To date, Andonovksi has issued no information on who will wear the armband in her absence. Also missing from the squad is Mallory Swanson, who tore her patellar tendon earlier this year.

This is evidently a transitional period for the United States. Megan Rapinoe will be 38-years-old by the time the tournament gets underway, and Andonovski has admitted that her minutes will be limited throughout the summer as she transitions into a different role within the squad. Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara and Alex Morgan are all also aged 34 or older, and this is likely to be their last World Cup.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Stars and Stripes, as they’ve yet another golden generation of talent coming through to replace the ageing stalwarts. Alyssa Thompson is the national team’s greatest prospect, and she’s set to make her World Cup debut at just eighteen years old. Her international debut came only last autumn, but she’s set the US scene alight and is undoubtedly the player to watch this summer.

The Netherlands will look to join the United States in the knockout rounds, as they too boast one of the strongest squads in the competition. Andries Jonker’s side reached the quarterfinals of last summer’s EUROs, though they were eliminated by France after extra time.

Keen to make amends, the Oranjeleeuwinnen may consider themselves as somewhat of a dark horse. This will be just their third appearance at a World Cup, and they’ll look to better their silver-medal performance in 2019. Women’s football has been continually on the rise in the Netherlands, and the Oranje would certainly love to add the World Cup to the cabinet alongside their pride and joy – the 2017 EUROs trophy.

This is a squad that contains a number of WSL stars – Victoria Pelova, Kerstin Casparij and Katja Snoeijs have all been plying their trade for English clubs for some time now. Yet the WSL’s Dutch contingent has grown a little larger this summer, as Aston Villa have secured the signature of Daphne van Domselaar. Manchester City fans will be keen to see how their new marquee signing performs, with Jill Roord signing for Gareth Taylor’s side in a move worth a reported £300,000. Notably, Liverpool’s Shanice van de Sanden was one of a handful of players to be cut from the preliminary squad as it was whittled down to just 23 players.

The Netherlands truly do have the potential to cause a colossal upset this year, but it’s worth highlighting that this isn’t their strongest squad. The absence of Vivianne Miedema is a huge gap for Andries Jonker’s side to fill, and while it appears that they seem to have discovered a winning formula with a 5-0 win over Belgium, the likes of the United States will pose an entirely different threat.

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Portugal might be overlooked this year – they certainly aren’t as much of an influence in the women’s footballing sphere as the United States and the Netherlands. Importantly though, the Seleção das Quinas have earned this place in the group stages, and they’ll look to show the world why they belong on the sport’s greatest stage.

They’re making their debut at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 – so we can’t predict how they’ll perform based on past results. A disappointing campaign at the EUROs might indicate to some that Portugal are dead and buried before a ball is even kicked, but the national team have come on leaps and bounds in the last twelve months and could now pose a threat to the two historical giants.

Since their group stage elimination twelve months ago, Portugal have lost just once. Francisco Neto has worked wonders with this side to remove any doubts about their ability to compete – they’ll look to take confidence from their goalless draw with the European Champions on July 1.

Francisca Nazareth, also known as Kika, is set to be the standout star for her side this summer. Aged just 20, she’s bagged six goals for the national team – a number she’ll look to add to throughout her debut World Cup campaign.

Unfortunately, it looks as though Vietnam will be flying home after their final group game on August 1. It’s incredibly difficult to see any way the Asian side could progress to the knockouts, though expectations should be low anyways given this is their first appearance at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.

In 2022, the Golden Star Women Warriors finished fourth in the AFC Women’s Championship and reached the quarterfinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. That being said, they did take home gold at the 2023 Southeast Asian Games – but the competition is nowhere near as fierce as the teams they’ll face this summer.

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Group F

France are somewhat of an unknown heading into this tournament. Corinne Diacre’s tenure as Head Coach was riddled with rumours of seemingly constant disputes, though she was replaced by Hervé Renard at the end of March 2023. Les Bleues have played just twice under Renard, winning both matches including a close-fought 2-1 victory against Canada.

France have two more friendlies scheduled ahead of the World Cup getting underway, as they face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin before a tough match against Australia in Melbourne. These two fixtures should give fans a pretty good idea of the level that France are capable of attaining, but it’s important to remember that they are just friendlies and not necessarily indicative of Renard’s preferred tactics for the tournament.

WSL fans will be familiar with the likes of Ève Périsset, Kenza Dali and Viviane Asseyi – but the real star to keep an eye out for is Eugénie Le Sommer. The 34-year-old forward could be playing in her last World Cup, and if that’s the case, she’ll certainly wish to go out with a bang by carrying her country deep into the latter stages of the competition.

France mightn’t top Group F though, as they’ll be competing against Pia Sundhage’s Brazil. The Canarinhas have struggled to meet expectations at the World Cup recently, heading home after the round-of-sixteen in the last two editions of the tournament. Brazil do have pedigree on the world’s greatest stage though, having picked up the bronze medals in 1999.

They’re serial winners of the Copa América Feminina, having won the title in eight of the last nine tournaments – finishing as runners-up to Argentina in 2006. Brazil are simply synonymous with winning; but they’ve failed to do so thus far in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Sundhage and her team will be hoping that this is the year that changes. A comprehensive 4-0 win over Chile has certainly given the Canarinhas a morale boost, especially given the fact they’d only trained as a full team for the first time the day prior.

There’s a plethora of incredible talent among this Brazil squad – including Rafaelle, who left Arsenal to join Orlando Pride at the conclusion of the 2022/23 season. Fans will also be familiar with Barcelona’s Geyse and Madrid CFF’s Gabi Nunes, though Marta is arguably the most well-known player in the side. Having been crowned as the Best Female Player of the Year on six separate occasions, the forward is made for the biggest stage; with this likely being her final World Cup, she’d love nothing more than to see Brazil engraved on the trophy.

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Jamaica join these two sides in Group F, and will look to disturb the traditional top two by progressing to the knockout rounds for the first time. The Reggae Girlz made their first appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019, losing all three of their games – and that’s a record they’ll be keen to improve on this summer.

Like many teams in this tournament, Jamaica’s side will be full of WSL talent – Manchester City’s Khadija Shaw is arguably the standout name in the squad. Tottenham Hotspur will have two representatives within the Reggae Girlz team, as Drew Spence and Rebecca Spencer are set to star in Lorne Donaldson’s plans.

Panama are the fourth and final team in Group F – and it’d be fair to say they’re likely to finish fourth too. Las Canaleras will be making their debut appearance at a FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament, so they’re somewhat of an unknown ahead of the competition getting underway.

It’s fair to say they’ve been drawn the short straw, with an incredibly tough group that will be almost impossible to emerge from. Panama’s preparation has been far from ideal, suffering a hefty 7-0 defeat at the hands of Spain on June 29. They’ll play Japan before competitive action gets underway in the Southern Hemisphere, but results so far certainly aren’t promising.

Furthermore, Panama were eliminated in the group stages of last year’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship – winning just one of their three group games: a narrow 1-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago. That was the only goal they scored throughout the tournament, so Ignacio Quintana will be hoping that his side show drastic signs of improvement this summer.

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Group G

Group G will certainly be a fascinating group to keep an eye on – as Italy are set to play in their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup. As Mia Claydon spoke about in her article for VAVEL, women’s football has in Italy has failed to reach the same heights that we’ve seen across Europe – the Serie A Femminile was only fully professionalised ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Italy will begin to reap the rewards for this decision in years to come, but the impact can’t come soon enough for Milena Bertolini’s side. After a shock early exit at the EUROs last summer, le Azzurre simply have to reach the knockout rounds as a bare minimum – anything sooner would be nothing less than embarrassing.

Bertolini has made some risky decisions regarding squad selection for this tournament. First and foremost, Martina Piemonte hasn’t earned a seat on the plane despite her 17 goal contributions for AC Milan this season. Of course, Piemonte won’t be lining up in the infamous Rossoneri colours next season – she’s signed a two-year deal at Brian Sorensen’s Everton.

If Bertolini’s decision pays off, she’ll be heralded as a genius. But it’s a huge risk to take, especially given that Sara Gama – the national team’s longstanding captain – has also been excluded from the final squad. Change is often a good thing, but this could be too much, too soon for Italy.

Argentina have a patchy history at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This will be la Albiceleste’s fourth appearance at the tournament, having made their debut in 2003. They’ve never made it out of their group though, and have failed to win a game in nine attempts thus far.

Undoubtedly, Germán Portanova will look to bring an end to that unwanted statistic this summer. Women’s football appears to be on the rise in Argentina, with the national team finishing third in the last two editions of the CONMEBOL Copa América Femenina.

Portanova’s side are unbeaten in regular time since the start of the year, suffering just one defeat against Colombia after a penalty shootout in Córdoba. While Argentina’s defensive record at major tournaments is less than impressive, Yamila Rodriguez will be hoping to add to her tally for the national team – having finished as the top scorer at last summer’s Copa América with six goals.

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Sweden are historically one of the best national teams in women’s football, though they’ve got somewhat of a point to prove after an embarrassing defeat to England in the semifinals of the EUROs last summer. A resounding 4-0 defeat by the Lionesses was certainly not the way the Swedish would have wanted to bow out – and they’ll look to make amends this time round.

While the Blågult have never won the World Cup competition before, they’ve claimed the bronze medals on three occasions – including the 2019 edition of the tournament. Peter Gerhardsson will hope that his side are able to make it to that stage once more, though they’ll fancy their chances of heading home with the trophy.

This Sweden squad is truly something special, and while their form in the buildup to the tournament has been indifferent, there’s no denying that they are side packed with quality. Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius and Lina Hurtig are expected to play a major role in the tournament, with Barça’s Frida Rolfö also involved.

Elsewhere, Filippa Angeldahl and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd are expected to star in Sweden’s aging midfield – Magdalena Eriksson will play with her former Chelsea teammate yet again, despite having completed her move to Bayern Munich alongside Denmark’s Pernille Harder.

South Africa are the final team in the group, with the Banyana Banyana appearing in their second consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup. They made their tournament debut last time out in 2019, bowing out in the group stage having failed to register a point.

Continentally though, South Africa tasted success for the first time last year. Having never finished lower than fourth place since 2006, Desiree Ellis’ side finally got their hands on the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations trophy – going undefeated throughout the entire tournament. Ellis is a national icon in the footballing scene, having scored a hat-trick in South Africa’s maiden women’s international match.

Of course, the football on display in that tournament isn’t quite on par with the quality opposition that South Africa will inevitably face at the upcoming World Cup. The entire nation will be hoping that Thembi Kgatlana will be able to find form, with the forward having scored the country’s sole World Cup goal thus far.

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Group H

If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back! Twenty-eight teams down – just four to go now. We’ll start Group H off with Germany. Martina Voss-Teckelenburg’s side have certainly endured a tumultuous year, and will be looking to make amends for their disappointing defeat to England at last summer’s EUROs.

Alexandra Popp was ruled out of that dramatic final, though the VfL Wolfsburg star is back and fighting fit to conquer the world’s greatest stage – and hopefully she’ll have some extra luggage when she flies back to Germany. Age is a concern for the striker though, as this could be her last appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She’ll look to go out with a bang, and they’re certainly contenders for the title this summer.

Germany’s qualifying campaign was almost faultless, bar a solitary defeat to Serbia in April 2022. Lea Schüller was the standout player on their path to the World Cup, and I’d envisage her playing a starring role once more. This is a German squad packed to the rafters with incredible talent though – and Chelsea fans will be more than aware of that fact. Melanie Leupolz is a key figure in the midfield, and the Blues will be keen to see how their new signing, Sjoeke Nüsken, performs.

If you’re interested in reading more about this incredible German side, I delved into the DFB-Frauenteam’s chances of success in detail for VAVEL – but it’s time to move on to the next team in this group, Morocco. They’re making their FIFA Women’s World Cup debut this summer, having claimed the silver medals at last year’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations.

The Lionesses of Atlas have endured a rocky patch of form recently, having failed to win any of their last four games. In fact, Reynald Pedros’ side have managed just four wins in the last year – not the best record considering they’ve played fourteen matches in that time period.

Pedros hasn’t yet finalised his squad for the World Cup, but Rosella Ayane is almost certain to be heading to the tournament. She’s the sole WSL representative in the squad, with the majority playing their football in the continent.

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Colombia will make their third appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer. Having made their debut in 2011, las Cafeteras bowed out in the group stage – but managed to make it to the round-of-sixteen in 2015.

They were absent from the 2019 competition, though they’ll look to come back with a bang this year. Under Nelson Abadia’s tenure, things certainly seem to be looking up – Colombia finished second at the 2022 CONMEBOL Copa América Femenina, and have also qualified for the 2024 Olympics.

Colombia have played nineteen games in the last twelve months, falling to defeat on just three occasions – and losing to Brazil, France and Italy certainly isn’t something to be ashamed of. Since the turn of the year, las Cafeteras have won just two of their seven matches, but they’ve certainly shown enough quality to be regarded as a potential dark horse.

South Korea are the final team in the tournament, and will be making their fourth appearance at the competition. The Tigers of Asia have made it past the group stage just once though, reaching the round-of-sixteen in 2015. Their record at the tournament is far from brilliant, having won just one of their ten matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup – a 2-1 win over Spain.

Colin Bell’s side claimed silver at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, suffering a 3-2 defeat to China in the final match. Bell has named and finalised his squad for the upcoming tournament, with two WSL stars included – Cho So-hyun and Lee Geum-min of Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton respectively.

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Eyes Peeled

It’s difficult to predict a winner at this early stage, given the incredible sides that will be on display. If I had to pick though, Spain would be my choice – Jorge Vilda’s side has been bolstered by the return of key players following a lengthy dispute.

As I mentioned, Colombia could be a great team to keep an eye on – and while they’re unlikely to reach the final four, don’t be surprised if they qualify from the group.

Predicting the disappointing package is always tough, but I’d have to choose England. Realistically, I think Sarina Wiegman’s side will reach the quarterfinals – and that’ll surely be viewed as a failure by the media, but it’s important to remember the context surrounding this tournament. The Lionesses are without a handful of their star players: this is a very different side to the one that won the EUROs last year.

FromTheSpot will be bringing you coverage of every game throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup, including previews and detailed reports. We’ll cover games in the buildup to the tournament too, so you can get a feel for the potential favourites ahead of action getting underway in Australia and New Zealand.

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